- Written by Daniel Livingston
It was a few weeks before Christmas, sometime in the late 1960's. Winters in Syracuse, NY can be quite cold and long. Just a few years earlier we had the great Blizzard of 1966, where over 42 inches of snow fell in 5 days’ time. I was now 6 or 7 and greatly anticipating a visit from Santa Claus soon. I can't recall if we had snow or not at this time but I do remember one event that stayed seared in my memory all these years. The doorbell rang and our neighbor Mrs. Kovac was standing on the porch with a rather large shopping bag. My mother invited her in and she explained that what she had in the bag was a Christmas present for her son Neil. She didn't want to keep it at their house because she suspected he would snoop around and find it. So she felt the safest place was with us. My mother gladly took the bag and agreed to hide it. Now I don't recall if the present was revealed to me at this time, but soon after Mrs. Kovac's departure I became aware that the bag contained the greatest gift of them all, the Johnny Seven - One Man Army toy gun.
Now, what the Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun was to the Ralphie Parker generation, the JSOMA was to mine. Instead of a "compass in the stock and this thing which tells time", the Johnny Seven had a Rocket Launcher and Anti-Tank Rocket. Instead of a single cocking carbine-action rifle, it had an Armor-Piercing Shell and Anti-Bunker Missile.
I'm guessing you can see the appeal it had on kids of my generation. Other features included a Repeating Rifle, Tommy Gun and Automatic Pistol that could be detached from the rest of the weapon. Here's the awesome TV Commercial I recall from my youth.
I was probably a little young to want one being so young, but if my neighbor Neil who was several years older than me, wanted one, then it must have been cool. Next thing I started noticing the JSOMA commercials being beamed at me every Saturday morning in between cartoons and the Monkee TV shows. Christmas came and I'm sure I got some great stuff, I always did. I'm not sure if this was the year both my brother and I got the battery-operated Gilbert's James Bond Aston Martin or if this was the year we got the battery-operated Jousting Knights on horseback. As I recall, the Jousting Knights didn't work so well and went back to Sears soon after that.
Fast forward to around 1998 and I'm in my car bringing my daughter back from soccer practice. We are about 100 yards from turning down our street when I think I spot something familiar sticking out of a cardboard box sitting next to the garbage cans in front of a house. I did the obligatory double-take with my head, but I was too slow (or driving too fast) to get a second look. I turned down my street and quickly let my daughter off in our driveway. I backed out and made my way back down the street. I'm still not sure why I had to drop my daughter off first. Maybe I didn't want her seeing me picking through someone else’s garbage. I'm sure she's seen me do stranger things over the years. I pulled past the house and did a U-turn and parked right next to the box. There it was, sitting there all proud was the JSOMA. Just as I remembered it, huge and green. Even to an adult this gun is big. I quickly grabbed it and rooted around in the box looking for any of the projectiles that came with it. I found several of the "you'll shoot your eye out kid" white plastic bullets along with a missile and a rocket, both orange. There was also the green plastic grenade tucked in the corner of the box. So it was missing a few part, namely theArmor-piercing shell and Anti-bunker missile. It also didn't have a full load of the plastic bullets. Something I would later remedy with my molding skills.
The Johnny Seven OMA comes up on eBay all the time. Check out the link below and see if you can snag one at a bargain price. Look for one with broken or missing pieces as they sell on the cheaper side. Then you can piece together one that is complete and sell off your extras.